Seeing and Being Seen: Aboriginal Community Making in Redfern

  • Michelle Mccomsey

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis focuses on processes of Aboriginal community-making in Redfern, an inner city suburb of Sydney, Australia. It addresses the ways in which the Australian state governs Aboriginal people by developing 'projects of legibility' (and illegibility) concerning Aboriginal community sociality. To address Redfern Aboriginal community-making requires focusing on the ambiguities arising from the contemporary policy of 'Aboriginal self-determination' and adopting an ethnohistorical approach to Aboriginal community-making that has arisen under this policy rubric. By ethnohistorical I refer to the engagement of Aboriginal people in Redfern in Aboriginal community-making policy practices and not a historiography of these policies. Attention will be paid to past and present negotiations concerning the (re)development of the Redfern Aboriginal community and their intersections in the state-led redevelopment process Aboriginal community- makers were engaged in during the course of my research in 2005-2007. These negotiations centre on attempts made to reproduce certain forms of sociality that both reveal and obscure Aboriginal social relations when inscribed in the category 'Aboriginal community'. This analysis is meant to contribute to the limited anthropological research that exists on urban Aboriginal experiences generally and research conducted on Aboriginal experiences in southeastern Australia. It addresses the complex social field of Aboriginal community-making practices that exist in Australia where Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians are located within the bureaucratic structures of the state, institutional networks, as well as non-government community organisations. This research contributes to understanding 'the institutional construction of indigeneity' (Weiner 2006: 19) and how this informs the (re)development of urban Aboriginal communities.
Date of Award1 Aug 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorKaren Sykes (Supervisor) & Ian Fairweather (Supervisor)


  • Aboriginal Australia, Redfern, Stolen Generations, community, child welfare, state legibility, settler nations, indigeneity

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